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Shell wins injunction, Greenpeace looks at options

When an oil company with billions of dollars employs an army of lawyers to undermine your right to peaceful protest and free speech, then you know you’re doing something right.

April 6th 2:56 pm | Jim Paulin

Shell has won an injunction requiring Greenpeace to keep its distance, 1,000 meters from oil rigs and 500 meters from support boats nationwide, and now the Coast Guard is making a more modest proposal for a 25-yard “safety zone” restricting movements around the oil vessels in Dutch Harbor.

A Greenpeace spokesman would not rule anything out.

“Greenpeace does not discuss what we might or might not do in the future. What we can say is that we’ll continue to oppose Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic peacefully and passionately because we believe that this project could spark an Arctic oil rush which will damage both the climate and the pristine environment,” said spokesman James Turner.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage granted Shell’s request for the injunction, drawing praise from the oil company.

“We are pleased the judge recognized the risk posed by Greenpeace’s illegal activities and entered the preliminary injunction. Our goal is to avoid a repeat of the recent illegal boardings that took place in New Zealand and Finland that not only jeopardized the safety of the crews aboard Shell’s Arctic-bound vessels but the protestors as well. While we recognize the rights of opponents to peacefully protest Shell’s Alaska drilling plan, we can’t condone Greenpeace’s illegal and unsafe tactics,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in Anchorage.

Greenpeace official Dan Howells blasted Shell’s legal maneuvering.

“When an oil company with billions of dollars employs an army of lawyers to undermine your right to peaceful protest and free speech, then you know you’re doing something right. Since Greenpeace New Zealand launched this campaign over 300,000 people have written to Shell telling them that Arctic drilling is one of the great mistakes of our age, and the company has resorted to legal bullying because they’re scared of public opinion,” Howells said.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has proposed access-limiting safety zones around oil vessels in Dutch Harbor, with a 30-day public comment period ending May 3. “The Coast Guard proposes temporary safety zones in the Port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and adjacent U.S. territorial sea from June 15 through on July 1. The temporary safety zones will encompass the navigable waters within a 25-yard radius of moored or anchored offshore exploration or support vessels, and the navigable waters within a 100-yard radius of underway offshore exploration or support vessels. The purpose of the safety zones is to protect persons and vessels during an unusually high volume of vessel traffic in the Port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and the adjacent territorial sea due to additional vessel traffic associated with exploratory drilling operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas during the summer of 2012,” according to the Federal Register.

Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow in Juneau said the security zones are aimed at keeping local port activities flowing smoothly, in view of potential congestion from the large Shell fleet. The agency is still reviewing options for local housing for the Maritime Safety and Security Team, he said..Another Coast Guard public affairs officer said last month that in anticipation of potential protests, the Coast Guard plans to station about 100 security personnel in Unalaska this summer.

Said Greenpeace’s Turner, ” We have no argument with the Coast Guard, who are simply following orders. Greenpeace has always been an entirely peaceful organization which follows the example of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and Gandhi. It’s up to others to decide whether a peaceful protest group or an increasingly desperate oil company pose the greater threat to our nation in 2012.”

Shell’s oil rigs in recent years have been highly visible on the Unalaska skyline, whether anchored off Hog Island or in Captains Bay, and another big show is expected in a few months.

Smith said “You will, in some capacity, see all of Shell’s vessels and drilling rigs this summer as they will likely stage and travel through Unalaska to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The arrival date is not set yet but it’s fair to say Shell vessels will make for quite a presence in the region by late June.”

The injunction was filed against Greenpeace USA, a California corporations, and 20 John and Jane Does, by Shell Offshore Inc. and Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. both Delaware corporations.

The injunction bans Greenpeace from blocking, barricading, or trespassing on 19 named vessels, the oil rigs Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, and 17 support boats including the Nanuq, Tor Viking II, Point Oliktok, Lauren Foss, Corbin Foss, Aiviq, Nodica, Fennica, and Z Big 1. The injunction remains in effect in territorial waters extending 12 miles offshore until Oct. 31.

Jim Paulin can be reached at


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